Pete's Trip Reports

Wales Coast Path - Part 2: Menai Bridge to Cardigan - Sep 2013

This is the second part in a series of four separate trips to complete the Wales Coast Path. For enthusiasts, here is the full set:

After the highly successful trip to do the first bit of the Wales Coast Path in May/June, from near Chester to Menai Bridge (via Anglesey), I was quite keen to press on with the next part, which looked like it had some excellent sections. I got a full eleven day trip arranged for the start of September, which would hopefully get me past Aberystwyth, and somewhere round the halfway mark of the whole path. As I was working out West during the week, I headed off straight after work, and stayed overnight in Crewe, which made the journey to the start a bit easier the next day. Then a super early train got me to Bangor station for five to eight, followed by a short bus ride which had me back at my previous finishing point of Menai Bridge for just after eight. Full daily reports below.

Day 1: Menai Bridge to Clynnog Fawr

From Menai Bridge the path headed off through forest straight away, first along quiet road, and then onto singletrack, and a few runners went by as I was walking along. Shortly after going underneath Britannia Bridge, the route crossed into Vaynol Park, through an arched gate in the high stone wall surrounding the park, that looked like it had been recently added especially for the coast path. The path passed a rather atmospheric small mausoleum in the trees, before reaching a small picnic site, where I stopped and had a banana and some bread for breakfast. The route took a bit of a loop through the park, before eventually going through a business park and popping out back on the main road not that far away, as the crow flies, from where it had entered! Strangely, there were no coast path signs at all through the park, so I was totally reliant on the route that I had marked out in highlighter on my rather ageing OS map, dated 1983. Fortunately I had done a reasonably careful job on the highlighting, so was able to pick my way through OK, despite the fact that the business park didn't even exist on my old map!

After leaving the park, much of the route to Caernarfon was on concrete cycle path, with some long sections which were completely separate from the road, through trees, so it wasn't overly unpleasant. The path went round the small dock at Caernarfon, then followed the impressive old town walls along the waterfront. I arrived just in time for elevenses, so I took a short detour into town for a pot of tea and some beans on toast, followed by a quick look round the town. It seemed like a well stocked town, with a nice central square, which was overlooked by the rather magnificent castle. On leaving the town, the path took a small bridge over the River Seiont, with more good views back to the castle and town walls, then took a small road that skirted the coast, with views across to Anglesey, and later on views across the mudflats of Fyord Bay. The Caernarfon end of the road seemed like a popular spot for people to park and look at the scenery, and stretch their legs, and there was even a burger van parked up, but then the road soon quietened down.

After a while, the road turned inland to cross a river, before passing an aviation museum, and then arriving back at the coast at Morfe Dinlle. It was about half past two by this time, so I sat down at some picnic tables and had some buns with houmous and tomato. The sun had come out, although there was quite a strong chilly wind. From the picnic spot there were views ahead to sillhouetted peaks on the Lleyn Peninsula, and looking back I could still see Llandwyn island on Anglesey. I pushed on alongside the stony beach towards the small hilly lump at Dinas Dinlle, where the path turned inland, and joined a long stretch on a cyclepath alongside the A499, which was rather dreary, and quite tiring on the feet. Shortly after Clynnog Fawr I left the path and dropped down a steep road to a small campsite, where they had exactly one camping pitch left, which was rather lucky!

Day 2: Clynnog Fawr to Tudweiliog

Somehow I woke up exactly five minutes before my alarm was due to go off, and got depitched fairly quickly. Rather unusually, there was no condensation at all on the tent, so it was a nice change to pack a completely dry tent. After the short climb back up to the main road I was back on the go at exactly half past seven. There was more cyclepath walking along the road, but the end seemed to be in sight, and straight ahead I could see the interesting shaped rocky peak of Yr Eifl, with the morning sun on it. I arrived at the small harbour at Trefor at about eight, and had a quick snack at a picnic table. A local chap appeared and spotting the rucksac, enthused about the views from the climb over Yr Eifl. Heading off from the harbour, it was a relief to finally leave the road, and the route did a pleasant circuit of the coastline, on grassy path, before getting stuck in to the climb, which crossed a small saddle between the quarried rocky hill closest to the sea, and the hill next to it. Near the top there was quite a steep pull up the gorse, heather and fern covered hillside, with increasingly superb views back along the coast towards Dinas Dinlle.

At the top of the climb, the path joined a jeep track for a while, and then descended steeply on a narrow road with tight hairpins down to Nant Gwrtheyrn, where there was a small cafe. It was about eleven by this time, so I stopped for a quick pot of tea and a late breakfast. The stretch after the cafe was excellent, passing through old mining buildings, complete with various bits of rusting machinery, and great views towards the quarried headland at Penrhyn Glas. The path climbed a bit to pass the headland. At the top it was a bit of a suntrap, and I passed four wild goats hanging about, followed by a lizard darting across the path in front of me. Near Nefyn the path traversed across the hillside covered with thick plants and bushes, that were the same height as me, overlooked by quarried cliffs high up on the hillside. Part of the way across was some sort of old mining tramway heading steeply down the slope on top of a small embankment, and the path climbed up and down stone steps to cross over it.

After Nefyn there was some great clifftop walking, heading towards the very distinctive long thin peninsula of Trwyn Porth Dinllaen, and I could make out a small row of houses half way along it at beach level. After a quick cafe stop at Morfa Nefyn, I headed out along the peninsula. It turned out to be covered by a golf course, which detracted from the walking a bit, but then half way along the path dropped down to the very pleasant beach, with a pub right by the sand. From there it picked its way along the shoreline, before arriving at a brand new lifeboat station that was in the middle of being built. The building works had blocked the original path, and a flight of stairs had been built out of scaffolding, to take people up to the top of the steep hillside as a diversion, which was a rather impressive feat of construction. From the tip of the peninsula I pushed on back along the edge of the golf course, which continued for quite a while along the coast. After finally leaving the golf course, there was a great stretch, on easy grassy path which occasionally dropped down to cross small river valleys. Near Tudweiliog, I turned inland and walked up to a campsite that was only a few minutes from the path. It had plenty of room, and seemed to have a nice relaxed feel about it, with a small antique shop on site, and a snack hut on the way to the beach.

Day 3: Tudweiliog to Rhiw

I got going from the campsite at eight. The path was quite lumpy, often picking its way alongside mud covered walls overgrown with grass, and occasionally dropping into small valleys with rivers clogged with irises. Not far along there was an old ruined house on the clifftop, with just the gable end remaining. At Traeth Penllech the path dropped onto the beach for a short stretch, and there was a superb selection of colourful seaweeds, and shortly after the beach I spotted a seal bobbing about in the sea. At the tiny inlet of Porth Colmon, there was a bloke backing a small fishing boat into the water using a tractor. The boat headed off down the coast in the same direction as me, stopping every so often to retrieve pots, and we made almost equal progress down the coast over the next couple of hours. At Porth Widlin, I was expecting the path to turn inland, but instead it continued on the coast, on a brand new stretch of path, not even fully worn in yet, complete with brand new fencing and gates, that took me all the way to Porth Oer.

I wasn't really expecting much in the way of amenities on this stretch, so it was a very nice surprise to find a small cafe at Port Oer, right on the 'Whistling Sands' beach. I arrived about half past twelve, and sat outside and got a pot of tea and a full veggy breakfast. It was a pleasant spot, the beach was fairly quiet, although there were a few people out bodyboarding, and some kids building elaborate sand castles. There was quite a bit of cloud about, but the sun seemed to poke through occasionally, and it sometimes even felt quite warm when you were sheltered from the chilly breeze. From Porth Oer, things really picked up, as the route headed towards the very tip of the Lleyn Peninsula. It was absolutely superb walking, on grassy path through colourful gorse and heather, traversing round the slopes of the small hill of Mynydd Anelog, and then finally up to the summit of Mynydd Mawr, where there were cracking views across to Bardsey Island. More good walking followed, and there were some rather airy bits after Pen y Cil, right on the edge of steep hillside dropping away to cliffs, where you definitely wouldn't want to mess up your footing. I finally arrived at Aberdaron just after five. I was looking forward to stocking up, as I was getting a bit low on food, but as it was Sunday the village shop had only just closed, which was a bit of a blow.

From Aberdaron, the route went inland for a while, starting off with very pleasant walking alongside a river, with lots of greenery, before joining a quiet road. The path did a bit of a dogleg to drop down to the coast at Porth Ysgo, but it was an interesting excursion, past some old mine entrances in the hillside. There was an excellent bit skirting round Mynydd y Graig, through vivid pink and purple heather, large granite blocks, old abandoned cottages, and fern covered hillside dropping down to the sea. The light was starting to fade as I reached the top of Rhiw, and I pushed on and reached a small campsite at the bottom of the village at about quarter to nine. It was completely dark when I arrived at the campsite, and I got the stove on straight away to cook some noodles, while I put the tent up by headtorch, then ate them from the comfort of my sleeping bag.

Day 4: Rhiw to Llanbedrog

I settled up in the morning before leaving, and the elderly chap running the site suggested that it was easier to take the beach for the next stretch, which traversed the ominously named Hell's Mouth. I stuck to the official route, which picked its way across fields, with some rather confusing bits, and I had to backtrack at one point to get back on the route. The route finding challenges weren't helped by some rather frisky bulls in two of the fields, who kept running up behind me, and I was beginning to regret not taking the advice of the campsite owner. It was a relief when the path finally joined the beach, about three quarters of the way along it. Walking along the beach I bumped into another coast path walker coming in the opposite direction, who was doing the whole path in a single trip. He had just come from the circuit of Mynydd Cilan, where apparently the signs had completely petered out when he was part of the way round. To make things worse, a local had told him that the access rights hadn't been sorted out yet, and that his best bet was just to abandon the path and cut across on the road. He seemed rather annoyed about the access problems and poor waymarking, and was threatening to write stiff letters to various officials.

After the tale of woe I wasn't that hopeful about being able to do the Mynydd Cilan circuit at all, but I did manage it, although I ended up doing the circuit in the wrong direction after having trouble getting to the start! Once you are on it, it is a fairly easy to follow and pleasant grassy path round various headlands, but the signs at the Hell's Mouth end to join the grassy path seemed a bit sparse. After the route finding excitement, there was a lovely section which climbed up from Porth Ceiriad, and I sat down at the top to enjoy the superb view of the beach and cliffs while I had a quick snack, which finished off the last of my food supplies. More pleasant walking, with good views of the island of St Tudwals, finally got me to Abersoch, where I stocked up with some energy bars to see me through the rest of the day.

From Abersoch the route pushed on along the beach towards the headland of Mynydd Tir-y-Cwmwd, surrounded by cliffs. The entire length of the beach had new looking chalets overlooking it, none of which seemed to be on my map. Some of them even had their own set of private stairs leading down to the beach. I was a bit unsure as to where the path would leave the beach, but sure enough just after the very last chalet it turned inland, and the coast path signs re-appeared. It then climbed steeply up through ferns towards the top of Mynydd Tir-y-Cwmwd. I had spotted a campsite on the map, round the back of Mynydd Tir-y-Cwmwd, so at the top of the climb I left the coast path and made the short detour round to it and got pitched up.

After pitching up, I rejoined the path, with much lighter rucksac, and followed it round the headland to Llanbedrog. It was a great stretch, over rocky fern-covered hillside. Looking down on Llanbedrog from the top of some tall cliffs was a sculpture of a person made from metal strips. This was followed by a cracking descent through a forest, with the path picking its way through large lumps of rock strewn everywhere. At Llanbedrog there was a decent shop and I stocked up on food supplies, then took a shorter route back to the campsite up a quiet road. It was a pleasant spot, quite warm in the evening sun, with views of three separate sets of hills silhouetted in the distance, and even glimpses of the streetlights of Pwllheli across the sea, as I sat and cooked up noodles with beans and pasta sauce for tea.

Day 5: Llanbedrog to Porthmadog

I heard some drizzle on the tent from about 6 am, which was a rather unwelcome development. However it seemed to have stopped by half past seven, so I packed up and got going. After taking the short downhill back to the village, I was back on the path at ten to eight. It went straight onto the beach, where there were good views looking back to the cliffs of the headland, and I could see the metal person sculpture standing on the top. I pushed on past a row of colourful beach huts. It was a bit of a gloomy morning, and the beach was almost deserted, apart from a couple of hardy dog walkers. The tide was quite far in, and the far end of the beach looked it was blocked by rocks at Carreg y Defaid, but I was able to clamber over them, and then when they ran out a rough ascent took me up to the easier wide path along the top. This turned into a path on top of large flood defence boulders, before dropping back onto the beach for the last bit to Pwllheli. I walked past the row of colourful houses on the seafront, then turned inland past a small lake, with lots of bird life, and arrived at the town centre for half past nine.

After some breakfast and a pot of tea from a small cafe, I pushed on along the harbour. After crossing the railway, the path followed the main road for a while on the cyclepath, before turning back down to the beach past the tiny station at Abererch. I pushed on along the completely deserted beach, with occasional groups of cormorants hanging about beside the water. After a small holiday park, the path turned inland again, and I sat down beside the beach for a quick snack of buns with houmous and tomato, while I laid the tent out to dry in the sun. There was a long stretch beside the main road again, and a succession of small powered paragliders buzzed past as I walked along. At Llanystumdwy the path turned back towards the sea, and led to a stretch of river bank, with raised boards to cross some marshy bits, some of which were bubbling and giving off a rather unpleasant smell. At Criccieth I got a mango sorbet, then sat on a bench on the seafront and made a call to arrange a pitch in the campsite at Porthmadog.

After Criccieth, the route followed the railway out of town, and I bumped into a chap with a rucksac coming in the other direction. He had started at Porthmadog and was doing five days of the path, and we ended up having a rather wide ranging chat, before we both headed off in our separate directions. There was a long stretch along Black Rock Sands, where the sand was hard enough to drive a car on, and people seemed to just drive right up to where they wanted to sit. At the end of the beach, the path turned a corner into a very pretty little bay at Ynys Cygnar, before taking to sandy paths through the trees. I finally reached Porthmadog at about twenty past six. I stocked up on provisions at a small supermarket, then took the short climb out of town to reach the campsite. It had quite a large tent area, and there were only two other tents. I got pitched up and then cooked noodles with tomato sauce and chickpeas for tea.

Day 6: Porthmadog to Llanbedr

The short walk back down the road to Porthmadog had me back on the path at ten to eight. There were great views of the surrounding peaks appearing out of the mist, from the town itself, and while crossing the bridge. After passing a steam train engineering works at the other side of the bridge, the path headed off up the hillside, mostly hemmed in by trees, but there were a few good views back to Porthmadog. I passed through a farm that had lots of old pallets of food piled up, including a huge open sack of olives, and I spotted a rat scuttling off as I went by. Further on there was a notice that warned of path closures in a few days time, for a festival. I pushed on, and came across a load of temporary fencing that had been erected for the festival. A chap in a flourescent jacket came across and let me through. The fencing went on for quite a while, but after finally leaving it I reached the edge of Portmeirion, then dropped down to a main road, with lots of lorry traffic, which got me to Penrhyndeudraeth, where I stopped for breakfast and a pot of tea.

Near to Penrhyndeudraeth there is a rail and road bridge straight over the river, but it looks like it is too narrow for walking, so instead the coast path has to head inland to Maentwrog, and then back out again. It was a pleasant stretch though to Maentwrog, as it picked its way alongside the Ffestiniog railway, through ferns and mixed woodland. A steam train even came past as I was walking along. The path eventually took a sharp right turn and crossed back over the railway, then dropped down to a small lake at Llyn Mair. It was a pleasant spot, and there were blue skies and sunshine by this time, so I had a short sit down on a bench, before dropping down to Maentwrog, which I recognized from passing through on the Cambrian Way back in 2008. The route climbed steeply up a narrow road to leave the village, before heading off on a track. I went a bit astray here, from breezing along without concentrating properly, and missed the turnoff from the track. After a quick look at the map, I took a cross country route, which took me to a huge pipeline, which led me back to the route, which then descended a quiet road to a small power station.

Having descended all that way, the route now climbed again, through forest, to arrive at the very picturesque reservoir of Llyn Tecwyn Uchaf. The path skirted alongside it, on hillside that was thick with heather. It was bit of a sun trap, so quite warm, and the bees were out in force, and I could hear the loud combined buzzing of them all around me. The only thing which spoilt the effect was a row of large pylons running long the other side! The descent from the reservoir was equally pleasant, although half way down I noticed that my achilles tendon was starting to hurt, which was a bit worrying. I stopped and put some tubigrip on it, and took some ibuprofen. At the bottom of the descent, I popped out on the main road beside Llandecwn station, which was where the bridge from Penrhyndeudraeth came out, and I pondered on the fact that had it been passable, it would only have taken twenty minutes walk to get here from my mid-morning breakfast stop!

The path pushed on along an embankment, then round some small hills, with increasingly good views back across the estuary of Afon Dwyryd to Portmeirion. A few more fields, and a long concrete track got me to Harlech, with cracking views of the castle as I approached. I stocked up on noodles and malt loaf, and got some sports drink, which I polished off straight away. It was about six by this time, and I headed off along the very quiet beach, then took a quiet road down to Llandanwd, where there was a small church nestled in the dunes. I pushed on past Llanbedr station, and took the road towards Shell Island. It was just about dark by this time, and I could see the lights of the buildings and tents across the water on the island. I did the the last bit by headtorch, on a small raised section, which took me through the marsh to the tip of Shell Island. Just after the island, I found a secluded spot and pitched up. I had forgotten to dry out the tent during the day, so it was still soaking wet from the night before. While it dried out a bit I cooked up noodles and chickpeas with a squeezy sachet of tomato soup for tea.

Day 7: Llanbedr to Rhoslefain

In the morning I continued on along the beach, which was totally deserted. before turning inland past some caravan and camping sites, where I took advantage of a usefully placed public loo. After picking its way through some fields, there was a long section on pavement beside the main road. Shortly after passing an old church, the row of breakwaters on the beach at Barmouth appeared below, and the path dropped down to cross the railway and join the promenade for the last bit into town. Barmouth was yet another reminder of the Cambrian Way! There was a superbly stocked supermarket, and I stocked up on a load of food to take me through the next couple of days, followed by a full veggy breakfast at a small cafe. Before pushing on I stopped at a bench on the promenade and did a compeed repair on a sore bit that seemed to have appeared on one of my toes.

From Barmouth, the path took the walkway across the railway bridge to cross the estuary. Up until now it had been cloudy, but dry and mild, but the sun came out as I crossed the bridge, and there were lovely views looking inland up the estuary. At the other end of the bridge was the small station of Morfa Mawddach, where there was a sign warning that the next section of the path was temporarily closed for essential repairs, and referring to the map below for details of an alternative route. Unfortunately the map showing the alternative route had been torn down. In the absence of the proper alternative route, I had a look at my OS map and came up with my own alternative route. I pushed on to the end of the small road to the station, then on the other side of the main road I took a footpath which climbed up through trees, passing an old quarry, to emerge at a small road at Panteinion Hall, where a short descent on the road got me back on to the official route again.

From here the route climbed past some old quarry workings. After the earlier sunshine, it had got a bit more gloomy now, and the surrounding fells felt a bit bleak, although every time I looked back at the view, Barmouth seemed to be in its own small patch of sunshine. The signs seemed quite sparse along here, often appearing shortly after a junction, rather than at the junction itself where it would be more useful. Higher up, the route joined a quiet road which traversed across the fells, before dropping down to Llwyngwril, where I filled up with water.

The path crossed various fields on the way to Rhoslefain, and I spotted a hare crossing a field. There was a small campsite marked on the OS map near to Rhoslefain, and purely on spec I took the short detour down the road to take a look at it. It turned out to be an excellent spot, probably one of the best of the trip. A steep downhill led to a tall arch under the railway, and through to some grassy patches right beside the shore. I got pitched up and had noodles with a squeezy sachet of tomato soup for tea. A chap in the small kitchen area mentioned that he had come across a brand new cycle bridge over the inlet to Broad Water, which avoided the inland detour to Bryncrug on the next stretch to Tywyn. From the campsite there were good views back to the mountain of Snowdonia, sillhouetted against the evening sky, and I also got an excellent view of the sunset over the sea, viewed from my sleeping bag!

Day 8: Rhoslefain to Dovey Junction

I settled up at the small farmhouse, then walked back up the road, and was back on the path at quarter past eight. Right from the off there were blue skies and sunshine. The path contoured round the hillside, and views appeared of the impressive new bridge across the inlet to Broad Water. After descending through a quarry I ignored the coast path sign pointing inland, and instead turned down the road to get to the bridge. At the bridge itself there was a brand new coast path sign pointing along the cycle path towards it, so the bridge route appeared to be above board, just that the existing signs on the route didn't seem to connect with it! At the Tywyn end the coast path sign was still pointing towards the inland route to Bryncrug, so walkers travelling North could easily miss the bridge altogether if they didn't know about it in advance.

At Tywyn I was hopeful that there might be a nice seafront cafe for some breakfast, but the front all seemed rather deserted. In the end I sat down at the last bench on the promenade and had some bread, houmous and tomatoes for breakfast. After Tywyn, the route continued along a raised path beside the beach, before dropping onto the beach itself. There was a chilly wind, but it was quite warm when you were in the sun. After quite a long stretch, the beach turned a corner and Aberdovey came into view. I arrived in town at midday, and found a cafe, where I got a pot of tea, and beans on toast on some nice thick doorstops. A chap who was just leaving the cafe, mentioned that he had been doing the coast path in the Northerly direction from the Chepstow end, and had got as far as the Mumbles. He reassured me that the section along the South coast wasn't too bad, despite passing by quite a few cities, and lots of industry.

The path climbed away from the town, and took a deserted road which undulated over the fells, with good views of the hills round about, before turning into a track and dropping to the main road. It passed by the entrance to a campsite, which was also advertising glamping, which sounded tempting. After passing through a forest with various exercise stations I popped out at a health spa. A passer-by made a comment about me being on the right side of the rain, which I didn't quite understand until I noticed that the ground was soaking wet, and there were lots of puddles from a recent shower that had somehow completely missed me. There was a small shop in the village, and I got some sports drink which I finished off.

The route took a quiet road out of town, then continued on gradually climbing forestry track for a while, which was marked up with cycle route signs. Eventually the path cut off on singletrack through heather and small trees, followed by a long descent on grassy slopes, which took me to the outskirts of Machynlleth. I reached the town centre at about six. I bought some more sports drink and polished it off, then pushed on. The path joined Glyndwrs Way for a short way, and then a nice stretch through a forest following a stream. Further on, it took to the open fells, and I finally pitched up in a small patch of grass between ferns, not far after passing Dovey Junction.

Day 9: Dovey Junction to Morfa Bwych

The camping spot wasn't the most comfortable, and quite lumpy, so I didn't get the most sound nights sleep. It rained a bit during the night, and it was drizzling when I got going in the morning at seven. There was lots of grassy path through ferns, with views back across the estuary to Aberdovey, and some nice forest sections. Further on, I stopped at a bench for some malt loaf and a muesli bar for breakfast. It was still drizzling when I dropped down to Tre'r-ddol, and a couple of people commented on the weather to me as I passed through. The path crossed a large marsh, on fairly firm path through reeds, and I saw a red kite overhead. The drizzle seemed to be easing up, and by the time I arrived at Borth at eleven it had stopped. I got some breakfast and a pot of tea in a cafe, then stocked up on snacks from the small supermarket.

From Borth, the signposts changed to show a small icon of a wave underneath a mountain, as the Wales Coast Path now followed the route of the Ceredigion Coast Path. The next stretch was an excellent bit of walking, on top of dramatic cliffs, with views down to steep rock slabs and strata, and some ups and downs to cross river valleys. After a large caravan site at Clarach Bay there was a climb to a headland, where a superb view out over Aberystwyth suddenly appeared. I dropped down and reached the promenade about three. I walked along and detoured into town to have a look around, and stocked up on bombay mix, muesli bars, and some dark chocolate. On the way out of town I passed some rather grand old university buildings.

I loitered a bit too long in Aberystwyth, and it was about quarter past four when I finally got going again. The route walked along a shingle bank before climbing up a grassy hill, with more good views back to the town. I pushed on for another hour or so, and reached a campsite at Morfa Bychan at half past five. The wind had really got up, and the camping pitch didn't have much shelter, so I was extra careful with the pegging out of the tent. The site did had a telly room, where I was able to recharge my phone, while a couple of torrential downpours passed by outside.

Day 10: Morfa Bychan to Cymtydu

I left the campsite at half past seven, it was drizzling so I had full waterproofs on. At Llanrhystud the path passed a large caravan park then turned inland and met a main road where there was a garage with an adjoining cafe. It was about half past ten, and would have been perfect timing for a late breakfast, but the cafe was all closed up, despite the sign saying it opened at eight. Near Llanon the path squeezed past a series of old lime kilns. Further on it took a metal flight of stairs down from the top of the mud cliffs, and walked along the beach of dark grey pebbles and piles of brown seaweed, followed by a row of old telegraph poles that were trying to protect the crumbling mud cliffs from the sea. Somewhere round here was a series of old kissing gates that opened in a small semi-circle of stone wall, which got progressively tighter and more difficult to get through with a rucksac on. Just before Aberaeron there were two red kites soaring above the hillside.

Aberaeron was a nice little town, decent selection of shops and cafes, and all the house fronts neatly painted, each one a different colour. I got a sports drink that I polished off straight away, and then crossed the river on an impressive wooden footbridge. More pleasant grassy paths, slightly undulating, took me towards New Quay. The path took to the beach for the final approach to New Quay, before leaving it via a flight of stairs to enter the town alongside the road. According to the OS map there seemed to be a campsite at Cwmtydu, and I made a quick call, but there was no answer, so I decided to push on and play it by ear. After filling up with water at the public loo I got going from the town at half past five.

The route took the lowest of three parallel roads out of town, then climbed up past an old quarry to get to the middle road, then a small cut through climbed up to the top road. The next bit was absolutely excellent, walking along steep hillside dropping off into the sea, some great cliffs with good strata, and some steep ups and downs into river valleys. At Cwmtydu, I couldn't quite tell whether the campsite was open. There were some static caravans, but apart from that it seemed totally deserted, and in the end I decided to push on instead. After another forty minutes, I stopped and cooked up some noodles, then just as it was getting dark I found a flat spot beside the path and pitched up.

Day 11: Cymtydu to Cardigan

There had been some rain overnight, and it still seemed to be drizzling as I packed up. I got going at half past six. The path traversed steep hillside through thick ferns, heading towards the distinctive peninsula of Ynys Lochtyn that was sticking out in the distance. The rain seemed to be holding off. Nearing Ynys Lochtyn I passed a plaque on a big rock marking the opening of the Ceredigion Coast Path in 2008, shortly followed by an artifical ski slope on the hillside. The path dropped down into Llangrannog, and I sat on a bench and had some malt loaf and a banana for breakfast. At Penbryn there was a small cafe, and also a loo where I was able to fill up my water bottles. Leaving Penbryn the path went through a delightful little forest valley, thick with ferns between the trees, and crossing a stream with some small waterfalls.

The last stretch into Aberporth took a concrete path higher up above the water, and passed a selection of old railway carriages that had been turned into little chalets. By now the sun had made an appearance, so it was turning into quite a nice morning. Aberporth had a couple of small beaches and a cafe, and there were a few walkers about. I felt under a bit of time pressure to reach Cardigan in time for the last bus that made the two hour journey back to Aberystwyth in time for the last train. So even though it was about eleven, and would have been a perfect time for late breakfast, I pushed on.

From Aberporth, the route climbed steeply up a small road, to skirt round a research place on the headland. After rejoining the coast there was some good walking, through thick ferns and bushes, occasionally dropping down to cross streams on small wooden bridges, and some excellent views of cliffs below. I came across a lot of speckled wood butterflies along here, and also a tiny little bird sitting at the edge of the path. I only came across a handful of people until I reached Mwnt, which was suddenly quite crowded, and where there was a small white church overlooked by an interesting pointy hill. On the OS map the path seemed to continue along the coast after Mwnt, but on the ground it instead came to a sign saying that the next bit hadn't been created yet, and then diverted inland to Y Ferwig. From there it followed the road back out to rejoin the coast at Gwbert, so missed off quite a lot of the coast.

Near Gwbert I passed a couple from Dublin who were doing some of the path. I asked them whether Ireland had any similar trails, but it sounded like a lack of official enthusiasm combined with poor access rights had hampered attempts to create any long distance coastal paths. From Gwbert the path now headed inland towards Cardigan, with views over the estuary of Afon Teifi to Poppit Sands, and the Pembrokeshire Coast Path beyond. Nearing Cardigan, the path went through the middle of a couple of fields of tall sweetcorn, before finally popping out only a stones throw from the centre. It was ten to four, so I had arrived in good time, earlier than expected, and was able to quickly head across town and catch the four o'clock bus, which then got me to Aberystwyth about eight minutes before a train was due to leave, so the whole journey worked out rather smoothly.


So the second installment of the Wales Coast Path turned out to be a very enjoyable trip. In the end, I made it all the way to Cardigan, which leaves me just over halfway, with only a mere 671 km (417 miles) to complete the full path. The weather was very cooperative, with only some occasional rain, and even a fair bit of sunshine. This stretch of the path is a bit more hilly than the first bit from Chester, with total ascent from Menai to Cardigan of 8970 m, which is actually 122 m more than Everest! The stats for the full trip were as follows:

  • Total distance: 402 km (250 miles)
  • Total ascent: 8970 m (29,429 ft)
  • Hilliest day: Morfa Bychan to Cymtydu: 1185 m (3887 ft)

For the stretch near Anglesey I already had some old OS maps, and I marked up the path in highlighter, using the downloadable route maps from the official site. For the rest of the route, I invested in new OS maps, which now have the coast path marked on, which saves a lot of bother marking them out. Even so, it is worth doing a quick comparison against the downloaded maps, as there are some route changes that haven't yet made it onto the OS maps. The official site also has a 'Route Changes' section, which is worth checking. The long detour inland to Bryncrug (to get between Tonfanau and Tywyn) is no longer needed, as there is an excellent new cycle bridge across the mouth of Broad Water. Also, there is a brand new stretch of path north of Porth Oer on the Lleyn Peninsula, which replaces some road walking.

My next installment will most likely be next spring, continuing South from Cardigan, which means that I will be on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path right from the off, so promises to be of excellent quality!

Update: I got the next section done in June of the following year, from Cardigan to Llanelli, and it was every bit as good as expected!